ellenRecently, as you may have seen in the news, nude photos and videos of multiple female celebrities were leaked online. The leak started with a hack of Apple’s iCloud—an online server where photos from the women’s phones were backed up and stored. To me, this is a teachable moment for parents about privacy and online content, and comes on the heels of a post we did recently about sexting in middle school students.

First and foremost, what the hacker did in this case is unquestionably an invasion of privacy, and is illegal and wrong. What some people might not know is that sharing the photos may also be against the law. It’s important to remember, too, that sharing photos of younger teens can also constitute spreading of child pornography with even more penalties at stake. Parents and teens should be aware of these consequences and avoid spreading inappropriate content, even when it is encountered accidentally.

Many people have also pointed to the celebrity hack as a lesson that people should not be sexting on their phones in the first place. It’s hard to make that judgment for everyone—these adult women took the photos on their phones expecting them to remain private, and in some cases thought the photos had been deleted even when they hadn’t.

But when it comes to adolescents, I feel that teens should be educated to not take explicit photos in the first place. To me, this feels like educating toddlers about not talking to strangers—of course we should work to stop criminals from kidnapping children, but in the meantime we want to keep our kids safe. Here are some tips for talking to your teen about the celebrity photo hack and online safety in general:

  • Discuss with your teen what to do if they encounter inappropriate content online or receive a message on their phones with inappropriate content. For example, ask, “Have you ever searched for something online and found something you weren’t looking for, or something that made you uncomfortable? What did you do?”
  • Remind your teen to close browser windows or text messages with explicit content immediately and to let you know about it. Report inappropriate content to website administrators or authorities as necessary.
  • Have a conversation with your teen about privacy and how it may be violated through cell phones or social media. Explain the dangers of posting or sending explicit photos and help them set strict privacy settings on social media. Understand how cloud storage works so that you are aware of ways to help control your teen’s information in cyberspace.

What other ideas do you have for how to approach this topic with teens?